In many ways I have not been a fan of the Deeper Life Movement (DLM), often called the Keswick Movement. It is another brand of perfectionism, the teaching that in this life we can virtually experience the eradication of the sin nature that remains with the believer after regeneration. The DLM asserts that total sanctification can be entered into by a single act of faith, much like justification. This finds its equivalency in the Pentecostal/Charismatic teaching about the baptism in the Holy Spirit as a second work of grace.
My hesitancy is based on several factors. One, it is not taught explicitly in the Bible. There are sufficient passages to indicate that the Christian struggle with sin is life-long. Two, human experience does not support it. While there are many who testify to such an experience, the reality is that we share together the continued frailties of the flesh and momentary failings of faith. No one is exempt. Three, it sets Christians on a life of self-examination that is not focused on the rooting out of sin as much as it focuses on states of mind, conjuring up the “break-through faith” that will forever set them on the higher plane from which they will never fall. This often leads, and I emphasize the word often, to such mental and psychological struggle that the soul breaks under the pressure. Just talk to those who grew up in Pentecostal churches but never experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit evidenced by speaking in tongues and you will get a sense of what I here assert. The angst of the believer, under the influence of DLM, is not so much about the struggle with sin (an angst we should all experience) but that there is a struggle at all. How does one find the faith to move past struggling? The inability to find it leaves a soul depleted, discouraged and soon to quit altogether.
And yet! There is a higher life, is there not? This we know intuitively, immediately. We are not satisfied with sin having such a hold on us. We are not satisfied by being so easily led astray. We are not satisfied with a roller coaster spiritual life which cannot be characterized as “abiding,” per John 15. It was John Wesley who so powerfully set this before the church in his teaching about a life of perfect love. While he did not claim to have entered it, he energetically taught it. His burden was to enliven a church deadened by doctrinaire High Calvinism, which created a passivity in both evangelism and spiritual growth, believing, as it did, in a deterministic model of soteriology. Wesley hated, yes hated, Calvinism, having witnessed his deadening effects on the Church of England. His approach was more pastoral than theological. His dispute with Calvinism was so energetic that he broke fellowship with George Whitefield, whom he held in the highest regard as a friend and fellow-worker. But he could not abide Whitefield’s continued adherence to Calvinism.
There are some trustworthy authors who hold this experience out before us with biblical balance and settled common sense. One of these in Andrew Murray. The Christian History Institute’s “Today in Christian History” focuses this Monday on Murray here. His book Abide In Christ is a great and encouraging read. Only $0.99 in Kindle. BTW, if you don’t have a Kindle, download the Kindle app for your computer so you can take advantage of Amazon ebooks, especially the many Christian classics that are either free or $0.99.